Permuted: Hey, Jennifer. Thanks for answering some questions for us, and congratulations on the release of NEVER LET ME SLEEP on October 13th. To begin with, you’re not only a published author, you’re an accomplished editor and we recently heard you became the managing editor for our friends over at Evil Girlfriend Media. Can you tell us how you got involved with them and what kinds of projects are in the works?
Jennifer: At this point, I’m pretty much the project cat herder. I’m reviewing all of the projects in the pipeline and shepherding them along. Coming up, we have MURDER GIRLS by Christine Morgan, a darkly funny horror novel about co-eds, NAUGHTY OR NICE: A HOLIDAY ANTHOLOGY that is an adult-oriented play on the SFF and horror genres for the holiday season—a little bit nice, a lot dark, and a whole lot sexy. It includes Permuted authors Timothy W. Long and Peter Clines as well as author luminaries like Rachel Caine, Jody Lynn Nye, and Lucy A. Snyder. In earlier 2016, we have RACHEL, a dark and sexy vampire story set in Japan. And, of course, we have WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR coming out later in 2016. I’m very excited for all of these projects.
Permuted: With the Hugo Awards sparking so much debate this year, do you have any thoughts on the controversy in general as a nominated editor?
Jennifer: Awards are a funny thing. I’m honored to have been nominated. I’m glad my part in the controversy is over. I’m also really pleased that there is a renewed interest in the Hugo award itself. Talk about an adrenalin shot in the arm.
Permuted: Your protagonist in the NEVER LET ME series, Melissa, has bipolar disorder. Can you describe your experience writing a character with a mental illness?
Jennifer: As a high functioning autistic adult, I am very aware of how people in media are portrayed. Either the mental illness is a superhero power (Alphas, Perception) or it makes a person a psychopathic criminal. It is rarely shown in-between. It is rarely shown as it really is—something millions of people deal with every single day. There are a lot of physical aspects to mental illness as well as coping mechanisms. With Melissa, I wanted to show a protagonist who had mental illness but it was neither a “power” nor something that made her unable to cope with the world. She is medicated and it works. This is the goal of every person suffering from mental illness on meds.
Permuted: Your covers for NEVER LET ME are great, and they show a girl that isn’t stick-thin, unlike many Young Adult books that are currently out. Why was this important to you?
Jennifer: It’s important because most teenagers don’t look like the models on the covers of YA books and magazines. It’s important because I grew up thinking I was fat when I wasn’t because I didn’t look like those pictures. I used to think the word “Healthy” was code for “Fat” and that’s wrong. Teens have enough to worry about. It’s good for them to see themselves in YA covers. They need to see themselves represented. That goes for teens of color, LBGT teens, and teens with disabilities.
Permuted: You’ve also written for videogames like SHADOWRUN RETURNS. Is it difficult to transition from fiction to game writing?
Jennifer: It is a completely different animal. You’re still writing fiction but you have a lot more rules to follow and a lot less space to tell your story in. Usually, you’re working on one section or scene in a videogame at a time. There are multiple different answers in dialogue scenes that you need to write out the different responses. Load screens are in 2nd person but you cannot tell the gamer how they are feeling—just what they are seeing. It’s a specialized kind of writing. I really like it.
Permuted: What was the most valuable thing you learned from writing the NEVER LET ME series?
Jennifer: When I sit back and look at the series as a whole, I learn just how much having a stable, supportive family has helped me growing up. I realized that Melissa loses her family—both blood and chosen—and she’d do anything she must to protect her new family. I didn’t set out to tell a story about the importance of human bonds but that’s what I ended up with.
That, and the fact that there is value in having a named weapon like Mister Bat. :)
Thanks again for joining us, Jennifer!
Jennifer Brozek’s Young Adult series debuts on October 13th with NEVER LET ME SLEEP (available for preorder here), followed by NEVER LET ME LEAVE on November 10th and NEVER LET ME DIE on December 8th in e-format. A paperback bindup of all three books called NEVER LET ME will release from Permuted Platinum on January 26th, 2016, and will be available in bookstores.